Neil Gerstein

Zumper 2020 Year in Review

2020 has been an unprecedented year in many ways. The US rental market, similar to many facets of American life, has fundamentally changed from what it was a year ago. The coronavirus outbreak in the United States has led to a massive migration of tenants out of high cost of living areas to cheaper neighboring markets. The result of this shift in demand has been historic price drops in expensive areas and historic price increases in more moderate-priced markets, making the cost of living a bit fairer across the country. .

In light of these changes in the rental market in the United States, we’ve compiled some of this year’s most interesting price and migration trends by state in the interactive dashboard below. This provides a more user-friendly view of US rental market trends than the in-depth market analysis we released last month. Overall, the map shows that the impact of COVID on rents at the state level presents a more stable picture, but at the city level, price volatility remains widespread.

Price changes

Despite unprecedented price changes in many cities, prices have risen at the state level in most of the country with a few exceptions. Several northeastern states, including New York (-20.2%), Massachusetts (-12.4%), Connecticut (-1.9%), Maryland (-8.2%), Maine (-17.0%) and Virginia (-4.8%) all fell in the median 1-room price from last year. The declines in these states are due to declines in their major cities. In New York, for example, New York, Buffalo, and Syracuse all dropped significantly in prices from last year, while only Rochester increased.

The dramatic price changes in other cities across the country are not necessarily felt at the state level. In California, for example, major cities in the Bay Area and Los Angeles have significantly lowered prices throughout 2020. But other California cities, such as Sacramento and Fresno, have increased significantly over the course of the year. same period to compensate for declines in other locations. The result is a very slight increase in the median price of a bedroom of 1.7% in the state of California.

The areas of the country where prices are rising statewide are basically everywhere except the Northeast, West Coast, and Upper Midwest. Notable producers are Montana (36.7%), Alabama (16.4%), Idaho (13.8%), New Mexico (13.3%), Louisiana (11.8%) %) and Pennsylvania (10.7%).

In terms of ranking the median price of a bedroom according to our National Rent Reports, the cities that rose the most nationally were: St. Petersburg, Florida (+22); Saint-Louis, MO (+ 17); Cleveland, OH (+17); Indianapolis, IN (+15); Fresno, California (+15); and Newark, NJ (+13). The cities that declined the most nationally were: Buffalo, NY (-22); Irving, TX (-17); Milwaukee, WI (-16); Madison, WI (-14); Salt Lake City, UT (-13).


Internal migration – which we measure as the percentage of users interested in moving to a new city – increased dramatically in 2020. We estimate that internal migration increased by 7 percentage points compared to a year ago . It is important to understand that the tenant migration caused by the pandemic is the underlying phenomenon affecting prices in most places. Looking at the graph in the dashboard, an uptrend indicates that tenants are moving from cities while a downtrend indicates that they are staying put.

In general, there is an inverse relationship between inland migration and price, which can be seen by clicking on the states in the dashboard, but it is interesting to note where this is not the case. To be clear, the migration graph in the dashboard measures interest in moving to a new city or outside the same state – no interest in completely leaving a state. In California, for example, migration and prices are on the rise, likely reflecting the migration of tenants out of expensive California cities to cheaper cities. In New York, the increase in the migration rate likely reflects the state’s entire move, such as the migration of tenants from New York to Newark, which we have documented before.

Look ahead

While this year ends on an optimistic note with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, the US rental market will likely feel the ramifications of the effects of COVID in the medium and perhaps long term. Prices will most likely continue to fall in expensive markets like San Francisco Bay and New York City, but likely at a slower pace, in line with what we’ve seen in recent months. Expensive markets always experience a net output tenants, which has a downward effect on prices, and there is no reason to believe that this will end in the near future. The at There has been a significant upward trend in new tenants interested in moving to expensive markets due to the reduced prices, but there are likely many fewer to come than those moving out. Prices in expensive markets will continue to fall as long as entries and exits are not balanced.

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